Growth of Brooklyn and Plans for Prospect Park
In the 18th century, Brooklyn was one of six villages dotting the western end of Long Island. In 1814 Robert Fulton’s ferry service contributed to the expansion of East River commerce and linked the growing town with its neighbor and competitor, New York City. Chartered in 1834, Brooklyn became the new nation’s third largest city within thirty years. The resulting crowds and unsanitary conditions prompted the first American attempts at urban planning, with public green space seen as a health necessity more than an aesthetic one. At the same time, new concepts concerning the role of public parks in America were gaining popularity. In 1858, designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux completed Central Park in Manhattan. Soon a movement grew in Brooklyn for a park of its own. James T. Stranahan, a business and civic leader, spearheaded the endeavor as head of the Brooklyn Parks Commissioners, overseeing the Park’s creation from inception to completion. In the early 1860s, Stranahan argued that a park in Brooklyn “would become a favorite resort for all classes of our community, enabling thousands to enjoy pure air, with healthful exercise, at all seasons of the year…”
Photo Credit: View of site chosen for Prospect Park. First Annual Report of the Commissioners of Prospect Park, 1861.